04 June 2015

Ushuaia and Buenos Aires: Last days in Argentina

Ushuaia is not the most loved place among bike travellers. Not only is it the final stop for many South-bound cyclists, but also an expensive, touristy town that has given it a bit of bad reputation. As much as we had previously worried about riding late into the autumn, our fears never materialised and the weather was with us for almost every day. When we arrived to Ushuaia, we even had some days of warm sunshine! It was indeed a normal town, with just one busy commercial street but with prices lower down than in the worst of the high season. Add to that the magnificent scenery of the city, with snow-capped mountains and a beautiful coast, and you have a recipe for greatness. 

Argentinians claim it to be the Southern-most city in the world (there is still Puerto Williams a bit further South, and arguably a pueblo, in Chile), which in itself already warrants some extra tourists. But what really thrives in the city (apart from the fishing and oil) is the Antarctica business. Just out of curiosity, we found that tickets range from anything between $5000 and upwards of $20.000 for a mere 10 day vacation, surely enough to have a pretty luxurious bike ride all the way from Alaska. But luckily, all that was gone in late April, so we had the city and its surroundings to ourselves. Thanks also to Alba, owner of Alba´s house and a member of Warmshowers, we enjoyed the comforts of a room and a proper mattress, both things we hadn´t been able to enjoy for quite a while. So we spent a few days, soaked in the atmosphere, ate delicious empanadas and alfajores, and eventually cycled to the airport to get on a dreaded plane that flew us back to the warmer latitudes of Buenos Aires. 

Buenos Aires had always been in our mind, so we took a few days to explore some parts of the city, while at same time stuffing ourselves with incredible foods and wines...oh, and also planning the next leg of our trip, laid-back Uruguay. Having an old porteƱo friend in town was indeed much appreciated, as the city is quite big and too fast-paced (for South American standards, that is!). At times we thought we were in Madrid, others in London. With Ezequiel we got to visit some of the typical and not-so typical sites, learning a bit more of what goes on in Argentina. Buena onda all around. It was sad to leave, but we are sure to be back sometime for more Malbecs and asados...there´s just so much of our beloved Argentina that we did not get to see!

After days a couple of days of gray skies, clouds moved on and we enjoyed some summer-ish weather

Ushuaia´s residential neighborhoods and the Martial mountains

In Ushuaia you are sure not to find kind words towards the English - here it reads "prohibited the docking of English pirate boats"

Antartica, so close yet so far (and expensive!)

We´d learned of a coastal route towards Estancia Harberton, best done on unloaded bikes, so there we went on a day ride

The coastal road ends and joins a double/single track

Behind Lucy, 40 km in the distance, Puerto Williams (truly the Southernmost settlement in South America)

At some point we realise our worn out Marathon Mondial tyres are past their mountain biking days - with more than 16.000 km on them they have become slick tyres. Add to that the slippery roots and mud and you have got an almost guaranteed fall. We turned around and headed back...until next time

On a different day we swapped bikes for boots and hiked up to the Martial glaciar, Ushuaia´s main drinking water source

Christophe, the Basque-Frenchie we had been cycling with in the past month, was also there. Gusty winds and snow prevented us from getting to the actual glaciar, but the views over to the Beagle channel and Ushuaia were well worth it!

So we returned to Alba´s house in time for dinner

The day before our flight to Buenos Aires we enjoyed some warm weather and picnicked in one of the parks

But one last thing...we cooked these huge araucaria nuts (monkey-puzzle tree nuts) that had been carrying from Punta Arenas. If you have the chance, get some of these - they are incredibly tasty (boil them in water for at least an hour)

On April 30th we cycle to the airport and get on an airbus plane, and cover more than 4 months worth of pedalling in just three hours. We see Buenos Aires through the window and wonder where the hell we have got ourselves into... we can´t even see the end of town!? 

But luckily we had our incredible host Ezequiel waiting for us in town. So we assembled the bikes in Aeroparque and rode to his house (feels good after our terrible CO2 footprint). We are then treated to some of the best meat cut of our lives - Argentinians have a special relationship with meat.

While wandering about town, we can´t but think we have been transported back to London and our beloved London overground

Ezequiel quickly points that the Brits did most of the railworks and snapped some proof of that. Ipswich!

Sky scrappers 

Buenos Aires´ motorised traffic is some of the worst we´ve seen, and so is great that is also catching up with urban cycling. 

Without many green areas around, kayakists take on the water channels. Another reminder of the similarities with London, here with Canary Wharf

Advertisements were everywhere for this television show... political correctness being slightly different in South America.

Buenos Aires street art always surprised us...

...often with interesting messages

Some protesting 

The Italian cemetery
Next up Uruguay, a tiny (for South America) country that really surprised us with its laid-back atmosphere, educated and friendly locals, and a very cool capital.

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